100s of Customers Pay for Each Others’ Starbucks; 1 Jerk Ruins it All


In a news cycle dominated by stories of social unrest in Missouri, brutality in Iraq and Ebola outbreaks in west Africa, you’d think a cute item about hundreds of customers paying for each other’s coffee at their neighborhood Starbucks might bring some momentary peace to even the most cynical of journalistic hearts.

Well, nope. St. Petersburg, Florida, of all places, was the scene of a nearly 400-customer long “pay it forward’’ chain covered by the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday:

The acts of kindness began at 7 a.m. Wednesday with a woman, her iced coffee and a stranger’s caramel macchiato.

The woman paid for her own drink, then asked to pay for the drink of the person behind her in the drive-through. That person returned the favor and paid for the person behind, and so did that person, until the employees at the St. Petersburg Starbucks on Tyrone Boulevard began a tally on green laminated paper near the drive-through window.

By 1:30 p.m., the chain had reached 260 customers.

Employees said the chain eventually ended after the 379th customer seemed confused by the model and declined to pay for another person’s drink. Fair enough.


Undeterred, customers started a second chain some 160 customers deep Thursday, until an area blogger decided that wouldn’t stand, for some reason.

Peter Schorsch unrepentantly claimed responsibility for breaking the chain on local news website St. Petersblog, where he told readers “Damn straight, I broke up the ‘Pay it Forward’ at Starbucks.’’

Regardless of whether people in the line knew they were part of a ‘Pay It Forward’ chain, each of those 378 purchases were true acts of kindness.

What is not an act of kindness is what was happening today at the same Starbucks, where customers were being told that they had had their drink paid for and then asked would they like to pay for the drink of the person next in line.

That’s not generosity, that’s guilt.

When a new ‘Pay It Forward’ chain started today, I had to put an end to it.


Schorsch goes on to say that he went to the Starbucks, ordered two drinks — one covered by a previous customer, the second paid for by himself — and, guided by deep moral conviction, declined to purchase the next customer’s order.

Schorsch doesn’t elaborate on why spending $2-4 for someone else’s drink when you’ve been provided a free one is social coercion so onerous it can only be confronted with self-righteous civil disobedience. The blogger notes he gave the baristas a $100 tip “just to prove [he was] not a 100 [percent] grinch,’’ so I guess there’s that.

“Chain broken,’’ he told readers. “Let’s get back to dumping ice water over our heads for a good cause.’’

Well. After burns like this, we’re all going to need a bucket of water.

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